A former video editor for the conspiracy theory outlet Infowars said that the site’s staff fabricated information for their boss Alex Jones in an effort to reinforce the views and prejudices of Jones’ audience.
The New York Times Magazine published a feature online today authored by Josh Owens, who recounted experiences he had working for Infowars. (He first started to share information with journalist Jon Ronson, who has known Jones for decades, in October 2016.) In the article, Owens recounts outlandish and disturbing incidents at Infowars, including Jones firing a gun in his direction “as a joke,” Jones punching employees, Jones killing animals in cruel ways on video, and Jones driving visibly drunk to film a stunt on Election Day 2016 for his broadcast audience.
Owens often traveled to produce content for Jones and recounted two experiences in which the team fabricated content for Jones’ audience. “If it fit into the Infowars narrative, it played,” Owens wrote.
In one instance, Jones had watched a YouTube video showing a Geiger counter, an instrument used to measure ionizing radiation, “displaying high radiation readings” on a California beach and wanted the Infowars team to travel to the area to film reports and promotions for an iodine supplement sold by Infowars. Owens and his coworkers were unable to replicate the high radiation levels during their trip, which enraged Jones. In an attempt to placate him, the team scouted out a nuclear waste facility “just so we could capture the Geiger counter displaying a high number.”
More disturbingly, Owens recounted traveling to a Muslim-majority community to “investigate” what Jones believed was a terrorist-training center with a promise from Jones that the team would receive “significant bonuses” if what they turned in met Jones’ expectations. But the information the team found in Islamberg, New York, did not support the “unfounded rumors circulated around far-right corners of the internet” that the community housed a terrorist-training compound. Owens wrote:
The information did not meet our expectations, so we made it up, preying on the vulnerable and feeding the prejudices and fears of Jones’s audience. We ignored certain facts, fabricated others and took situations out of context to fit our narrative, posting headlines like:
Drone Investigates Islamic Training Center
Shariah Law Zones Confirmed in America
Infowars Reporters Stalked by Terrorism Task Force
Report: Obama’s Terror Cells in the U.S.
The Rumors Are True: Shariah Law Is Here!
After having experiences with Muslim people that countered Infowars’ false claims during that trip, Owens eventually left the site.